Big Flower, Big Cab


    From the spectacular vineyards planted within the King Protea flower farms outside of Stellenbosch in South Africa come the award-winning and highly regarded wines of Botanica, founded by American ex-pat, Ginny Povall. The self-educated winemaker has created quite a buzz around her hand tended, organic line of wines. (Side note, I don’t know how one goes about buying a working flower farm and building a world class resort on said farm and planting ultra-low yielding dry farmed vineyards and producing a high-end range of wines from said vineyards, but you don’t do it with funds from the “swear jar”). In addition to the Botanica range, Povall makes a more affordable line under the “Big Flower” label, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is a fantastic example of her work.

    The 2009 Big Flower Cabernet from Stellenbosch is quite a lot of wine for just south of $20. Coming from steep vineyards 1800 feet above sea level, the vines require manual tending. The finished wine sees 18 months in oak. This is a delicious Cab that straddles the lines of New and Old World Cabernet, bursting with ripe black fruit but also offering graphite, bramble and spice. Very nice tannic structure will allow the wine to develop nicely for 3-4 more years. The wines of Botanica and Big Flower have received rave reviews in the wine press and this wine is no exception, 90 points from the Wine Advocate. A tremendous value seeking out.

Bill M


Opposed to Dry


While doing a little end of year virtual desktop cleaning, I came across an article I saved which perfectly sums up how maddening the wine concept of “dry” can be. First off, you are talking about a liquid, secondly, as a descriptive phrase plenty of people have heard of a “dry wine”, but not necessarily within a specific context… to wit;

Opposed to Dry: a Manifesto

Written by Erika Szymanski

This being a manifesto against use of the word “dry” in relationship to wine, I herewith present ten points on why “dry” should be banned from all wine-related speak.

1.     Some people use “dry” as the opposite of “sweet” in relation to the amount of residual sugar in wine. Wine with no or very little residual sugar is “dry.” Wine with significant (whatever that means) residual sugar is “sweet.” But …

2.    Ethanol also tastes sweet, so a high-alcohol wine that is “dry”— that is, that has no residual sugar—can still taste “sweet.”

3.    Lots of acid can mask residual sugar, so a wine that is “sweet” can still taste “dry.”

4.    Fruity flavors seem sweet even when they are not associated with sugar (or ethanol, or other sweet substances), so a particularly fruity wine might seem “not too dry” even if it does not have residual sugar and is not high in alcohol.

5.    Some people also use “dry” to refer to the rough, sandpapery sensations produced by tannins on the inside of the mouth, which has very little to do with residual sugar, ethanol, or fruity flavors.

6.    Since oak is high in tannins and wine aged in oak picks up tannins from the barrel, some people really mean that they do not like oaky wines when they say that they do not like wine that is “too dry.”

7.    Some people use the word “dry” as a proxy for “good,” either because they like “dry” wines or because they think that “dry” wines are sophisticated. Some people use the word “dry” as a proxy for “bad,” either because they do not like “dry” wines or because they think that “dry” wines are snobbish. It is confusing.

8.    If you ask a server either for a “dry” wine or for a wine that is “not too dry,” the server is likely to understand “dry” in exactly the way you did not mean it but, since you used a vague word, you cannot blame the server when you do not like whatever he or she suggests.

9.    Referring to a beverage as “dry” tends to provoke bad jokes from people who like to take things literally.

10.     Referring to a wine as “dry” in the presence of overly-particular wine science geeks tends to provoke long-winded manifestos on why “dry” is a terrible word to use to describe wine.

Bill M

All I want for Christmas…


Beringer 2011 Napa Valley Private Reserve Chardonnay, 92 points Wine Spectator

Beringer 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet, 92 points Wine Advocate

Beringer 2010 Napa Valley “Quantum”, 92 points Wine Advocate

Beringer 2010 Napa Valley Private Reserve Cabernet, 94 points Wine Spectator

Beringer 2009 Napa Valley Private Reserve Cabernet, 93 points Wine Advocate

Austin Hope 2010 Paso Robles Syrah, 93 points Wine Spectator

Chateau St. Jean 2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet, 90 points Wine Advocate

Clos Pegase 2010 Chardonnay Mitsuko Vineyard Napa Valley, 93 points Wine Enthusiast

Conn Creek 2009 Napa Valley “Anthology”, 92 points Wine Spectator

Garnet 2010 Pinot Noir Rogers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast, 91 points Wine Enthusiast

Hidden Ridge 2008 Sonoma County “55% Slope” Cabernet, 92 points Wine Spectator

Hundred Acre 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Ark Vineyard, 97-95 points Wine Advocate

Hundred Acre 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Ark Vineyard, 96 points Wine Advocate

J. Davies 2010 Spring Mountain Cabernet, 94 points Wine Advocate

J. Davies 2009 Spring Mountain Cabernet, 92+ points Wine Advocate

Kuleto 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Estate, 93 points Wine Spectator

Kuleto 2009 Napa Valley “India Ink”, 90 points Wine Spectator

Ridge 2011 Lytton Springs Zinfandel, 92-94 points Wine Advocate

Ridge 2011 Sonoma County “Three Valleys”, 91 points Wine Enthusiast

Ridge 2010 Santa Cruz Montebello Vineyard, 96+ Wine Advocate

Ridge 2010 Santa Cruz Merlot Estate, 90 points Wine Advocate Read the rest of this entry

Know Your Turkey!



I want to say “it’s that time of year again” but considering that Christmas themes start popping up in stores around Labor Day, it’s hard to discern exactly what that time it may be. If you are like me and your first thought when you get out of bed is what you are going to have for dinner, you know Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And if you are like me you’ll be ruminating over what wine to pair with it. Read the rest of this entry

Giving new meaning to nickel night…


    Have you ever wanted to order a “yard” of Cabernet? Or enjoy your Pinot Noir out of a glass boot? Or enjoy refreshing Pinot Grigio when you do that keg stand at your cousins wedding? Well, pine no more my friend, because wine on tap, yes kegged wines, are becoming a reality. And not PBR-quality wine, we’re talking Guinness-quality wine here.

    Wine in kegs isn’t necessarily a new concept. Cooking or house quality wines have been sold in keg-like vessels for some time. In recent years however, high end, fine wine producers have embraced the keg as a conveyance system. And why not, the advantages are innumerable. All high end wineries want their wines in top restaurants because of the prestige it conveys upon the winery and wine on tap allows restaurateurs to move up the price scale because spoilage is no longer a concern. The wine undergoes no oxidation and stays fresh from the first glass poured to the last. There is no more concern for corked bottles, nor busy bartenders throwing out bottles with that last ounce or two still in there. From a service stand point, a new bottle is being opened every 4-5 glasses, depending on the pour, so service efficiency is tremendously streamlined. Bottom line, the money saved from waste being avoided is exponential while being service friendly. Because stainless steel is required for the equipment, the presentation looks great too.

     Unfortunately, wineries have begun kegging wines on limited basis and they are sending them to limited markets, either local to them or the major cities. One winery that is ahead of the curve is Liberty School. They’ve begun kegging their Paso Robles Cabernet, Chardonnay and Troublemaker, a Rhone-style blend. Not only are the wines delicious but the kegs are recyclable, which is a huge advantage, just put them out by the curb.

    With all the advantages of wine on tap, it is only a matter of time before you can get a fresh, delicious glass of fine wine served at optimal temperature at a restaurant near you. Plus you can really class things up by hosting the next “wine pong” party.

Bill M

Fire made it good, slate made it “gooder”.


    I recently read an article with this Eric Ripert guy, and some restaurant La Bernardin something or other, and it discussed cooking on slate. As in slate tile, which you may be walking on as you read this. The method is known as “pierrade”, and it is common in the border regions of France and Spain. Furthermore, steak was at the center of the article so naturally I was intrigued.    

    The method of cooking with slate is as simple as it sounds, simply laying a slab of slate over a roaring fire. For my experiment I stopped by my local Home Depot and dropped $1.56 for a square foot slab, untreated of course. Once you get the slate tile home you’ll want to rinse it well with water, no soap since slate is porous. Slate can be fairly brittle, if you put it on a warm grill and it is still moist at all, it will break. Once you have the slate tile dry, you are ready to go.

For the protein, I procured a steak the size of, I don’t know, a medical encyclopedia, roughly. For my wife a salmon filet. I also blanched and split some brussel sprouts to sear on the tile. I also sautéed some baby Yukon golds.

A charcoal grill is ideal since they can get hotter than a gas grill, I however grill 6 nights a week, so gas it is. Simply put the tile over the grill grate, set the grill to high and cover. In about 15-20 minutes the tile should be ripping hot. Using tongs and a paper towel, rub the tile with oil and you are ready to go. Do not touch the tile with your hands, obviously.    

Next just add whatever you are cooking and you’ll get that great sizzling sear. The slate adds a subtle minerally touch as well as absorbing the flavors of the foods and imparting to what you add next, not unlike a cast iron skillet. The steak and salmon had a beautiful caramelized crust, rich flavor and stayed nice and moist. The brussel sprouts were, well, Brussels sprouts, but the slate did give them a nice texture. All washed down with a 2003 Chateau Simard St-Emillion, perfect.

If your slate tile makes it through without cracking, which is apparently pretty common, you can clean and reuse. Before the slate completely cools, run under warm water and scrub with a wire brush, no soap. Of course if it does break or you are simply feeling lazy, you could return it to its natural habitat, the field behind my house would be an example. So grab a slate and get grilling!


Bill M



    Ever wonder how some wine brands manage to win so many of those medals that adorn their bottles from wine competitions near and far? In particular, an inexpensive wine brand that also happens to be non-vintage that is piled to the ceiling at the local Liquor Locker? Well, W. Blake Gray, who writes a great wine blog, The Gray Report, wrote an eye-opening and would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-true article for Palate Press about his recent experience judging a California wine competition here;


You might not think of that Chardonnay that won “3 lassos” from the Temecula Wine Rodeo again….